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Getting Around Tablas Island Romblon

Once settled in my centralized location, the next big task was to find a reliable way to get around. If I want to fully explore Tablas Island’s 324 square miles, I needed to find something more than my original plan of renting a scooter.

I’m the passenger on our BMW RT 1150, and have never driven a motorcycle. I had a scooter in my twenties, so I figured if I got an automatic 4 gear one, I could master it without incident. Most everyone has a motorcycle here – Taiwanese and Chinese models abound and the usual big name brands. I hitched a ride to Odiognan, the biggest town, to look at motorbikes.

After a lot of looking I went with a brand new bike as it was cheaper than renting. The used bikes would likely require repair or replacement parts during my time here. I decided on a Suzuki Smash, 4 gears, automatic, 125 cc. I’m not very inspired by the brand name “Smash” in conjunction with a motorcycle……curious marketing.

Decision made, it was time to make the purchase, but that required withdrawing money from the only ATM on the island. No go with my Visa. Not being able to get cash is a big deal in a cash only economy. Another day, another try and I managed to withdraw money with my debit card after many attempts. Good thing, or it would have meant another day and a boat taxi to Borocay Island.

I love my new RED motorcycle! Day two and still in one piece, good thing the speed limit everywhere is 30 km/hr. Not many people wear helmets here – flip flops and a whole family to a bike is the norm. Accidents involving riders and passengers without helmets most often are fatal.

My husband always says, “all the gear, all the time”, and we wear our high visibility Kevlar jackets, pants, gloves and boots to be safe. My big act of safety here is wearing a good helmet and covered toe shoes. In Canada we have laws about wearing helmets and how many people can ride on one bike. Here, little todd

lers sit in front of the driver, while another is holding groceries, or building supplies, TVs even. Here its common place to see 4 people on a bike. Its just how it is in a developing country – when you have little, a motorcycle is a necessity, not a pleasure ride.

No stop signs at intersections, but it all works out. You can filter around slower vehicles, or trucks that just stop in the road. No one gets upset about it – there’s a system. You give 2 taps on the horn to let people know you’re passing them, and 1 tap to let the dog or chickens or kids in the road know you’re coming.

Lessons for the day:

  • Sunscreen your feet! I put sunscreen everywhere else but there.

  • Cover your seat when parked. I got back on after shopping and yelped it was so hot…..much to the amusement of a line of motorbike tricycle taxi drivers. I laughed with them and will do as they do next time – put a piece of cardboard over it anchored with a rock. Ingenuity at its best.

  • Nod your head upwards at other drivers to say hello – not downwards. Eyebrow raising is also a casual acknowledgment or greeting, sort of like the side to side head waggle in India.

I’ve got wheels, and the road is beckoning.

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